Steve Tyrell has attracted enough attention for his two regular albums, A New Standard and Standard Time, that he is almost beyond journalists' usual tack of describing a new singer's voice by who he sounds like; pretty soon, they'll be saying that other singers sound like him. But it remains true that if you have never heard him but you are familiar with Dr. John, your first reaction upon hearing him is likely to be that you are listening to Dr. John. Well, maybe a younger Dr. John, and one whose accent isn't quite as swampy. But the basic elements -- the grit and gravel in the tone, the slurred, deep South phrasing -- are much the same. Of course, Tyrell comes by the sound of his voice honestly, hailing from Houston, TX, and boasting a musical career (albeit, behind the scenes) as long as Dr. John's. But it remains true that Dr. John got there first, and so the comparison remains inevitable. As on his regular albums, Tyrell lines up a cast of jazz heavyweights for these small-group sessions, allowing plenty of space for soloing, particularly by trumpeter Clark Terry, who shines on "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "The Christmas Song." Tyrell is at his best on the bluesier numbers, especially "Merry Christmas Baby," but he adds soul to anything he sings. His fans are likely to welcome this just as they did his first two albums. But don't be surprised when you've got this disc in the CD player on Christmas Eve and your visiting cousin Shirley says, "I didn't know Dr. John made a Christmas album!"
This Time of the Year Review
by William Ruhlmann